GLS Picks: Week 17

GLS thinks Kyle Orton and the Chiefs can play spoiler again.

Well, we’ve reached the end. If you’ve been with us all year, you probably haven’t made — or lost — a dime. But, um, hopefully you’ve had fun? Two reasons to stick with us throughout the playoffs: 1) We’re planning on killing it this week, even though it’s the hardest week of the year to pick games, and 2) we somehow went 9-2 straight up and against the spread in last year’s postseason.

To complement (and maybe even compliment) our picks, be sure to turn the volume up on your speakers and hit play on the Week 17 Red Heat Podcast whilst reading:

Here’s our track record…

Last week: 9-7 (7-9-0 against the spread)
2011 season: 153-87 (112-111-17 against the spread)
2010 season: 155-101 (117-119-20 against the spread)
2009 season: 175-81 (122-101-33 against the spread)
2008 season: 161-94-1 (114-112-30 against the spread)
2007 season: 174-82 (118-105-33 against the spread)

And here’s our unintentionally super-conservative take on what might go down on the final Sunday of the 2011 NFL season…

HIGH CONFIDENCE 

Don’t be afraid to bet on Redskins-Eagles. Yeah, it’s a meaningless game, but did you see what Philadelphia did in a meaningless game in Dallas last weekend? And Washington has been playing meaningless games all year. So that shouldn’t be a big factor. An 8.5-point spread seems high for the Eagles, but they’ve covered and won impressively in three straight weeks. Washington’s a bit of an injury mess and is coming off a loss to two-win Minnesota at home. I’m not sure the ‘Skins will show up Sunday. Eagles 28, Redskins 13

The Bucs have been blown out in four straight games. And with Atlanta still fighting for that very important No. 5 seed in the NFC, the Falcons probably won’t let up against a division rival after a poor performance in New Orleans. Atlanta actually moved the ball quite well Monday night, but it couldn’t finish. Fortunately for them, the Bucs are terrible defensively in the red zone. Look for the Falcons to send a message and cover that 11.5-point spread by halftime. Falcons 35, Buccaneers 17

San Francisco’s most dominant performance of the year came in Week 13 against the Rams. And while I do believe St. Louis will also put forward at least a half-hearted effort in their final home game with their head coach on the firing line, I don’t think it’ll be enough against a Niners team that matches up perfectly with them. Steven Jackson will have nowhere to go against San Fran’s superb run defense and the 49ers will roll despite travelling time zones for the fifth time this season (their only loss in that scenario came in Baltimore on very short rest). 49ers 20, Rams 6

If Tom Brady is hurt, then everything changes in Foxboro. That said, I doubt Brady sits Sunday and New England crushes the Bills again at home. Buffalo’s strong performance against the Broncos last week was a bit of an anomaly, and now the Pats are coming off their best half of football all season. New England hasn’t lost to the Bills at Gillette since 2000, but they haven’t won convincingly since 2007, so I’m using that 10.5-point spread to my favor. Patriots 23, Bills 13 

San Diego’s offseason is underway. It started last week in Detroit. Does anyone really expect the Chargers to battle back after that train wreck in Michigan and put forth a solid effort in a now-meaningless game in Oakland, especially when the Raiders have everything to play for? Injuries might prevent the Raiders from winning big, but they’ll prevail against a team they’ve beaten in three straight games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Raiders 27, Chargers 20

MEDIUM CONFIDENCE

The Texans won’t lie down for Tennessee. Houston knows that it needs to get some momentum back before the playoffs, and T.J. Yates should have Andre Johnson back to operate against an inconsistent and unpredictable Titans team that rarely manhandles opponents. The Texans also have defensive coordinator Wade Phillips back after he left the team for medical reasons. Tennessee’s a mediocre team that was crushed by Houston earlier in the season. I get the feeling they’ll choke Sunday. Texans 23, Titans 21

I have very little confidence in Mark Sanchez and Brian Schottenheimer right now. So while the Jets always seem to claw back from near death, I just can’t see that happening this year. The odds are stacked against them getting a wild-card spot, even with a win, and a veteran roster is well aware of that. Now they’re on the road against a Miami team that has way more confidence and much more momentum despite three fewer wins. The Dolphins would love to play spoiler and ensure that Rex Ryan’s team finally and officially misses the postseason. Dolphins 20, Jets 17

Carolina might be the second-best team in the NFC South. Seriously, the Panthers are playing that well and are that dangerous on offense right now. And with the Saints probably having nothing to play for in Week 17, it’s very tempting to take Carolina in an upset. New Orleans has a history of looking past weaker opponents, especially in the division, but the Saints have simply been too unbelievably good at home for them to lose this game. All that said, don’t be surprised if Sean Payton yanks starters in the second half and Carolina covers that eight-point spread. Saints 30, Panthers 24

The Vikings are sticking with Christian Ponder, which further pushes me toward the Bears, who performed semi-admirably in a loss to Green Bay Monday night. I don’t like Minnesota’s chances at winning back-to-back games with Joe Webb on the bench and Adrian Peterson out, especially with Chicago due and Josh McCown playing for a job in 2012. Bears win a close one. Bears 20, Vikings 17

LOW CONFIDENCE

It looks as though Indy will be playing to win Sunday. And at this point, the Colts are a better team than Jacksonville. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Jaguars put up a fight and avoid embarrassment in their home finale (especially with Maurice-Jones Drew going up against a mediocre run defense), but I still don’t think that’ll be enough. Dan Orlovsky is an NFL-caliber quarterback, and Blaine Gabbert is not. Colts 20, Jaguars 17

Baltimore-Cincinnati will probably be a close game, which is something we’ll elaborate on later but is a factor in Cleveland. Because with the final result of Ravens-Bengals up in the air, the Steelers will probably push hard to ensure they take care of the Browns. Remember: Cleveland put up somewhat of a fight in Pittsburgh earlier this year, and the Steelers are dealing with injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey and Troy Polamalu. Plus, the Browns might benefit from having Seneca Wallace in the lineup. So I don’t think it’ll be a blowout, but I can’t pick against Pittsburgh, who rarely looks past inferior opponents. Steelers 23, Browns 16

Who’s better: Kansas City or Denver? Serious question. I think it’s a toss up. The Chiefs have embraced the spoiler role and have improved on offense with Kyle Orton under center. The underrated defense has been stellar, keeping the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers in check and hanging with Tom Brady for a half. Don’t forget that they also shut down Tim Tebow in Week 10. Denver found a way to win despite Tebow’s 2-for-8 effort on that day, but the Broncos appear to be out of magic. Chiefs 20, Broncos 17

CLUELESS

Seattle-Arizona is the ultimate toss-up. Two hot teams from the same division, neither with anything to play for after tough Week 16 losses. The Seahawks have won three straight in the series, and Arizona’s won four straight at home dating back to Week 9. But Seattle has won back-to-back road games in quite impressive fashion. Logic says to go with the home team in a close game, but I’ve never been called logical. I still think the Seahawks are a much better team, and they’ll limit Beanie Wells with their superior run defense while Marshawn Lynch has a solid day and both so-so quarterbacks cancel each other out. Seahawks 17, Cardinals 14

Detroit still has a lot to play for. That No. 5 seed is huge to avoid a matchup with the Saints in New Orleans, so the Lions will go hard against a Packers team with nothing to play for. Still, Green Bay’s good enough to keep it close with a group of very good backups, and they haven’t lost at home to the Lions since, like, 1912. And even if Aaron Rodgers doesn’t play, the Pack have Matt Flynn, one of the best backup pivots in football. Lions 24, Packers 21

I’ve been struggling with Baltimore-Cincinnati all week. On one hand, the Ravens barely held on to beat the Bengals at home in Week 11 and the offense has only gotten worse since then. On the other hand, Andy Dalton had three interceptions in that first matchup, and he’s hit a bit of a wall in December. Plus, Dalton won’t have a completely healthy A.J. Green Sunday. Both have a ton to play for, but it’s very tough to tell how either will deal with that situation. It’s very tempting to take the Bengals at home, but Cincy has struggled far too much against weaker opponents of late at Paul Brown Stadium. I’ll take the much more talented Ravens in a close one. Ravens 17, Bengals 14

Injuries could be a major factor in deciding who wins the NFC East. Or rather, who can best deal with them. Tony Romo has barely been able to throw this week due to that injured hand, and now he’ll face a scary Giants pass rush. New York is dealing with a ton of injuries on both sides of the ball, but they’ve survived this long despite the fact that’s been the case all season. I think Dallas is the better team and Romo is the better quarterback and I don’t think home-field advantage will be a big factor for a Giants squad that has gone 3-4 at MetLife this season. That’s why I’m taking the healthier Cowboys, but with very little confidence. Cowboys 31, Giants 30